Picture yourself with your finger poised over two buttons – a green one that says “yea” and a red one that says “nay.”

Push the green one and someone lying unconscious at death’s door will live.

Push the red one and that person will die.

Your choice.

That choice actually awaits members of the Maine Legislature as they reconvene Friday to slog their way through the many and varied vetoes issued this session by Gov. Paul LePage.

None looms larger than LePage’s veto of L.D. 1547, “An Act to Facilitate Access to Naloxone Hydrochloride,” or Narcan, for people who have experienced opioid-related drug overdoses.


Choose the “yea” button and override LePage’s veto, as the Senate is widely expected to do, and pharmacists statewide will be allowed to dispense the lifesaving antidote pre-emptively to family members, friends and anyone else who wants to rescue an overdose victim while precious seconds tick away.

Choose the “nay” button against an override, as just enough House Republicans who voted earlier against the bill could do, and at least some of those frantic bystanders will watch helplessly as another Mainer dies from the disease – and, yes, it is a disease – of drug addiction.

Put more simply, those Republicans can fall in behind LePage, who stunned many in Maine and around the nation last week when he opined in his veto letter that “naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose.”

Or they can step back from that hopeless rhetoric, take a deep breath, and consider what’s truly at stake with this simple push of a button.

It’s all reminiscent of the “Milgram experiment,” conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram while Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was being tried in Jerusalem back in 1961.

The experiment aimed to determine how people from a variety of occupations and backgrounds would respond to an authority figure’s orders (a la Adolf Hitler) to do something they normally might find abhorrent.


In this case, the test centered on a subject’s ability (or not) to comply with an order to administer electrical shocks at increasing voltages to another person hidden away in an adjacent room whenever that person answered incorrectly to a series of word-match questions.

It was, of course, all a setup. There were no shocks, and the screams from the other room, which grew more blood-curdling with each uptick in the voltage, were also staged.

But the people at the electrical button didn’t know that. And at the repeated prodding of the authority figure, even as some laughed nervously and others sweated profusely, an astounding 65 percent of them kept administering the “shocks” up to what they thought was a maximum of 450 volts.

As Milgram later concluded, “Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process.”

That terrible destructive process, in this case, is drug addiction.

And lest we lose ourselves in the legislative wrangling, L.D. 1547 is by no means a hypothetical exercise: According to the Maine Attorney General’s Office, 272 people died from drug overdoses in Maine in 2015, a stunning 31 percent increase over the previous year.


“I think there’s a great deal of desperation,” said assistant House Democratic leader Sara Gideon of Freeport, the bill’s sponsor, in an interview Wednesday. “If you go out and talk to people, you are hard-pressed to find somebody who hasn’t been touched by this … who doesn’t know somebody in their circle who has experienced either a loved one who is addicted to drugs or who has overdosed.”

So why not help these people?

In LePage’s increasingly dark world, they’re apparently not worth the effort.

As he put it so clumsily in his veto letter last week, “Creating a situation where an addict has a heroin needle in one hand and a shot of naloxone in the other produces a sense of normalcy and security around heroin use that serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.”

He then doubled down Tuesday in a radio interview with WVOM, saying, “I don’t think Narcan saves lives. I think Narcan extends lives.”

If only he’d included the obvious: In cases of lethal overdose, the absence of Narcan ends lives.


To be so devoid of hope, so lacking in compassion, doesn’t just erode LePage’s standing as Maine’s chief executive. It diminishes him as a human being.

Just as standing up to LePage’s ignorance, as Milo Police Chief Damien Pickel did in a recent department Facebook post, is a sign of utmost integrity.

“Your recent veto of LD 1547 . . . only shows how uninformed you are,” Pickel wrote in an open letter to the governor. “By saying (Narcan) ‘does not truly save lives,’ you are being disingenuous and are doing a disservice to those of us who have administered it. It does save lives. It’s not a safety net for the addict that will ‘perpetuate the use of heroin.’ When an addict is overdosing, they lack the skills to administer it themselves. In fact, an addict hates Narcan because it reverses the effects of the opioid and they immediately go into withdrawal.

“You should listen to your police, fire, EMS and medical professionals before you make any further uninformed statements.”

Sorry, Chief, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

The only question now is who still listens to LePage – starting with you Republican lawmakers who, we can only hope, will do some serious soul-searching before you show up for your last day of work on Friday.


Will you be like Milgram’s hapless subjects and obediently push that “nay” button, even as you know deep down that real lives hang in the balance?

Or will you tune out what you’re hearing from the governor’s office and the party leaders who do his bidding and, on this matter of life and death, do the right thing?

So go ahead. Picture someone you know, maybe even someone you love, lying there on the ground.

Green button or red button.

It’s your call.


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